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FBI Knew Of Russian Bribery Before Uranium One Deal

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The FBI reportedly had evidence of Russian officials using bribery to subvert the U.S. atomic energy industry before the Obama administration approved of the controversial Uranium One deal. It remains unclear whether the bureau shared its findings with the State Department and other federal agencies before it signed off on a deal that gave American uranium output to a Russian company.

On Oct. 17, The Hill obtained government documents and conducted interviews that indicated the FBI had been conducting an investigation of the Russian nuclear industry at least a year before the Obama administration allowed for roughly 20 percent of U.S. uranium capacity to be sold to the Russian nuclear company Rosatom.

The FBI had reportedly used an American businessman as a confidential witness to document illegal activity by Rosatom director Vadim Mikerin. The FBI mole provided evidence that Mikerin was supervising a racketeering scheme of kickback payments, bribery and extortion as early as November 2009.

In  October 2010, the State Department, nine other federal agencies and the Committee on Foreign Investment approved a sale of the Canadian company Uranium One to Rosatom, effectively directing one-fifth of the U.S. uranium capacity to the Russian economy.

The FBI reportedly investigated Rosatom for roughly four years without alerting Congress to the illegal activity. Between 2009 and 2012, the Russian nuclear company violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing the American trucking firm Transport Logistics International to transport Russian uranium.

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A person familiar with the investigation who requested anonymity asserted that the FBI did not inform government officials of their findings before the Uranium One deal and other transactions between the Obama administration and the Russian nuclear industry.

"The Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats, all of which raised legitimate national security concerns," the source said. "And none of that evidence got aired before the Obama administration made those decisions."

The Uranium One deal had been a source of controversy during the 2016 presidential election. President Donald Trump, then a candidate, repeatedly blasted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the deal.

"As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton signed off on a deal allowing Russians to take ... control of about 20 percent of America's uranium supply to the Russians," Trump said on the campaign trail.

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Clinton was accused by critics of personally profiting from the deal because she was heading the State Department and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, received both personal speaking fees in Russia and financial contributions to his charitable Clinton Foundation from parties vying for the Uranium One sale. However, Hillary did not have the authority to approve or reject the deal and 10 federal agencies ultimately approved of the sale, according to PolitiFact.

The Uranium One sale to Rosatom did not hugely disadvantage the U.S. nuclear industry compared to Russia. Uranium is a relatively inexpensive commodity and the U.S. only accounts for 2 percent of uranium production in the world. Effectively, the Uranium One deal provided Russian President Vladimir Putin with an additional 0.4 percent of the world's uranium output, MarketWatch reports.

In November 2014, Mikerin and Transport Logistics International executives were indicted for the scheme.

The former House Intelligence Committee chairman, former GOP Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, said he was never alerted to the FBI's findings and blasted the bureau for withholding the evidence from Congress.

"Not providing information on a corruption scheme before the Russian uranium deal was approved by U.S. regulators and engage appropriate congressional committees has served to undermine U.S. national security interests by the very people charged with protecting them," Rogers said.

Sources: The Hill, MarketWatch, PolitiFact / Featured Image: FBI/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Vonvon/Wikimedia Commons, Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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